Article Summary:

What are the symptoms of a learning disability?

Learning Disability Symptoms

Before my daughter Michele began attending school, a lady who was babysitting her noticed things she did (or didn't do) that weren't quite right developmentally.

We were fortunate in that the babysitter had had training in early childhood education, and she would work with Michele and her son to help them develop appropriate pre-school skills. She became concerned that Michele struggled with learning her alphabet and her numbers. Her small motor skills - things like using scissors and coloring - weren't up to par. She would overreact to many situations, and she didn't understand jokes because she didn't understand words with different meanings.

We weren't surprised when she was recommended in first grade to be evaluated for a learning disability.

I have taught hundreds of children with learning disabilities, and all of them had different combinations of signs. Some of the younger children just couldn't remember what sound(s) each letter or combination of letters made. Some couldn't figure out what certain numbers added up to, or they couldn't remember their subtraction, multiplication, or division facts, even though they tried and tried to memorize them.

Many of the kids, both younger and older, like Michele, could read words on a page very well, but they had difficulty understanding what they read. Then there were others who had to have help reading the words, but once they read them, they had no trouble understanding. There were some who were great readers and writers, but they had an awful time with Math, and there were some who could do math better than I could, but they had a terrible time with reading.

One thing a majority of them struggled with was organizational skills. They were always losing things - notebooks, pencils, coats, assignments, anything they could possibly lose. Their lockers looked like tornadoes had gone through them. And I heard from the parents that their bedrooms were the same story.

Too many of the students I taught tried to avoid reading and writing because it was so difficult for them. It was a common practice for me to help them read tests because they
1) couldn't read the words, or
2) didn't understand either the question or the multiple choice answers they were given.

Taking notes was always difficult for Michele. She couldn't get the notes from the chalkboard, overhead, or even her textbook onto her paper. She had to have help in her classrooms so she could work around this problem.

Everyone has problems with something. But when these problems interfere with your child's education, and they are not showing the improvement they should be showing, it is time to consider getting him evaluated.

Sandy Gauvin is a retired educator who has seen learning disabilities from many perspectives - as the parent of a daughter with learning disabilities, as the teacher of children with learning disabilities, and as an advocate for others who have diagnosed and unrecognized learning disabilities. Sandy shares her wisdom and her resources at

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